(CHICAGO, January 11, 2011) - A groundbreaking agreement in Ligas v. Hamos, filed today in the federal district court in Chicago, will dramatically expand community living options for people with developmental disabilities, while assuring those who choose to live in Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled (ICF-DDs) that their needs will continue to be met.
If approved by the court, the proposed Consent Decree will give residents of ICF-DDs the choice to move into small community-based settings with the necessary supports. The agreement also requires that an additional 3,000 people with developmental disabilities currently living at home without services be provided with community services.
"This case is about choice, and now thousands of people with developmental disabilities will have the option to choose community living," said Barry Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director at Equip for Equality, which served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "Under the proposed Consent Decree, the State of Illinois will move closer to fulfilling the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act to integrate people with disabilities into our society."
An agreement was previously reached in this case, but Judge James Holderman denied final approval due to concerns raised by guardians of ICF-DD residents that the agreement would adversely impact their family members. The new agreement makes clear that ICF-DD residents who are happy with their current placement would not be part of the proposed class and would not be required to move. In addition, those in need of residential placement may still choose to live in an ICF-DD. Only those who have affirmatively expressed a desire to live in the community would be part of the class. The proposed Consent Decree now ensures that resources necessary to meet the needs of those who choose to continue to reside in ICF-DDs will be made available.
"The resolution process, while extended, has been useful and productive," commented lead trial counsel John Grossbart, a litigation partner with SNR Denton, which represented plaintiffs on a pro bono basis.
"Once all the parties came together, we discovered that all of us wanted to ensure personal choice - allowing residents to make the judgment about which living arrangement was best for them. The consensus that we reached will serve our clients, as well as those who previously objected to the agreement."
Twenty years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and more than 10 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that undue segregation is discrimination under the ADA. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's ruling, most people with developmental disabilities in Illinois seeking residential services are only offered placements in large facilities. Illinois currently ranks 51st among all states and the District of Columbia in serving people with developmental disabilities in small integrated settings.
"I want to live with friends in the community and have my own room," said David Cicarelli, a named plaintiff in the case. David's father, Jim Cicarelli agreed, "We're so happy that our son, and many others with developmental disabilities, will be fully integrated into the community. For over 10 years, David has waited to fulfill his dream to live in the community. We are thrilled that finally his dream will be realized."
"Experience around the country shows that when given meaningful supports, people with disabilities thrive in community settings," explained Benjamin Wolf, Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. "We are pleased that everyone involved has come together to offer real choices to these citizens of Illinois."
In addition to the Ligas case, two other class actions were brought to expand community living choices for people with disabilities in Illinois. In 2010, Judge William Hart approved a similar agreement in Williams v. Quinn, a class action on behalf of people with mental illness living in large private state-funded facilities. A third case, Colbert v. Quinn, brought on behalf of people with disabilities living in nursing homes in Cook County, is currently pending.
"This agreement is just one more step in the historic process to assure persons with disabilities in Illinois have the choice to live in small, community-based settings, where they can make decisions about who they live with, what time they eat, what time they go to sleep and what they do during the day," explained Ed Mullen, a representative for Access Living and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.